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Asia

Asia Travel Guide

Asia, and South-East Asia in particular, is one of the sought-after parts of the world by travelers. And for good reason! From extensive coral reefs to fascinating ancient temples, from dream beaches to the highest mountains in the world, Asia is packed with exceptional assets that can please any type of traveler. And it is probably the part of the world I have visited the most extensively, for more than 10 years. As a matter of fact, I now live in South-East Asia!

Discover our travel tips, articles, and virtual tours for Asia !

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Your Guide to Asia

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Asia

Quick Facts About Asia

  • Countries:
    • 48 countries + 75% of Russia’s territory + 3 other territories: Hong Kong and Macau, which are Special Administrative Regions of China, and Taiwan, governed independently but claimed by China.
    • The 3 largest countries are Russia, China, and India.
  • Asia’s subregions:
    • Eastern Asia: China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan.
    • South-Eastern Asia: from Myanmar in the west, all the way to the Philippines and Indonesia in the east, including Indochina and the Malay Peninsula.
    • Southern Asia, comprising India, and surrounding countries, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
    • Central Asia, with most of the “stans”, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, or Tadjikistan.
    • Western Asia, most commonly referred to as “the Middle-East”, including on this website. But technically, it is part of Asia. 
  • Languages:
    • Due to the gigantic size of China, Chinese is the most spoken language in Asia, and in the world.
    • The second most spoken language in Asia is Hindi, one of India’s main languages.
    • If you are an English speaker, you will be pleased to learn that English is the third most spoken language in Asia. It is commonly used in various countries like India or Singapore.
  • Religions:
    • Asia is a particularly large and diverse continent, which means there are very diverse cultures and religions as well.
    • The vast majority of Western Asia and Central Asia are Muslim.
    • Two-thirds of Southern Asia (the Indian subcontinent) is Hindu, and most of the remaining are Muslim.
    • 40% of South-East Asia is Muslim (Indonesia being the largest Muslim country in the world). The remaining are above all Buddhist and Christian.
    • About half of the population in Eastern Asia (China, Japan…) claim to not practice any religion. The rest follow a variety of religions, the main one being Buddhism. 

Asia, A Continent of Many Records

  • Asia is the largest continent on Earth, with 44.61 million km2 / 17,220,156 square miles, and is home to more than 60% of the world’s population (4 billion people).
  • China is the most populous country in the world, with 1.4 billion people. Because of that, Chinese is the most spoken language in the world.
  • The Himalayas is the largest mountain range in the world. It is home to 10 out of 14 highest mountains in the world – the Eight-thousanders (mountains above 8,000 meters / 26,247 feet).
  • The highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, is located on the border between Nepal and China, and is part of the Himalayas. It reaches an altitude of 8,848 meters / 29,031 feet.
  • The Malay Archipelago is the world’s largest archipelago, with more than 17,000 islands. It covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines.
  • Indonesia is the country with the largest number of active volcanoes in the world, with 130 volcanoes that are part of the Ring of Fire.
  • A spot in the Dzungarian Basin, on the border between China and Kazakhstan, is the place that is the farthest from the ocean on Earth. It is 2,648 km / 1,645 miles to the nearest coastline.
  • Lake Baikal, in southern Siberia, Russia, is the world’s deepest lake, with a maximum depth of 1,642 meters / 5,387 feet. It is also the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, with 23,615.390 cubic kilometers / 5,665.63 cubic miles of water.
  • The Sơn Đoòng Cave, in central Vietnam, is the world’s largest cave. The second largest is also in Asia, it is the Dear Cave, in Malaysia.

10 Handpicked Asia Highlights

10 fantastic places and experiences in Asia, in no particular order.

  1. Discover the fabulous temples of Angkor, in Cambodia, for a fascinating journey among ancient temples with iconic giant trees growing on them.
  2. Explore the gorgeous island of Langkawi (and all the surrounding islands!), in Malaysia. Keep the sunniest day for a ride on the cable car, where astounding views of the whole island and surrounding sea await. 
  3. Kayak through the gigantic Xe Bang Fai river cave in Laos. This is a truly exceptional cave, still quite remote and off-the-beaten-path. Experience the absolute darkness in the middle of the cave – a moment you won’t forget.
  4. Penetrate some of the best-preserved rainforests of Borneo in Ulu Temburong National Park, Brunei. Don’t miss the Canopy Walkway, which, as its name suggests, takes you to canopy level from where you can embrace a 360-degree view of the surrounding forest.
  5. Ride a local boat on Inle Lake, in Myanmar, through picturesque villages built on stilts on the lake, and floating gardens. Don’t miss the famous local fishermen with their conical nets. 
  6. Dive or snorkel in Raja Ampat, in the remote province of West Papua, Indonesia. Raja Ampat is a true heaven for divers and snorkelers, with exceptional coral reefs and manta rays. If you don’t dive, the archipelago will still bewitch you with the beauty of its islands. 
  7. Hike around the incredible landscapes of Zhangjiajie, in southern China, with giant stone pillars and deep gorges. Zhangjiajie inspired Jame Cameron for the landscapes of the planet Pandora in his movie Avatar
  8. With some of the most spectacular landscapes in Asia, the Himalayas should be on every traveler’s bucket list. One of the best ways to experience the mountains is to go for a trek in Nepal, such as the Annapurna Loop of the trek to the Everest Base Camp.
  9. Experience the vastness of the Mongolian steppes, indulge in some great horse riding, and sleep in a yurt like the locals. 
  10. Visit the Taj Mahal, in India, one of the most famous monuments in the world. The white marble mausoleum was built by Moghul emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 13th child.

When to Go to Asia

Asia is a huge continent with lots of different climates and landscapes, from tropical islands to the highest mountains in the world. The best season will vary from country to country, and you may want to refer to the individual country guides for more precise information. But I will still list a few points here:

  • March to May is ideal to visit the Himalayas (Nepal, Bhutan…), with clear skies and rhododendrons in bloom. It is also the best season to visit Japan if you want to experience the cherry blossoms (usually at their peak end of April).
  • October to April are the dry months in Cambodia and Laos – but it can be very hot. I was in Cambodia in April and it was really hot among the stones of Angkor!
  • It is best to visit the Indonesian island between April to October, in order to avoid the monsoon seasons.
  • For the Malay Peninsula, the best weather is to be expected from November to January on the east coast and from June to September on the west coast. 

Traveling to Asia

Staying Safe

Asia is generally safe for travel and backpacking, even for a woman. The most common issues you may encounter in Asia are petty theft, bag snatching, and scams. Here are some pieces of advice to stay safe in Asia:

  • Like you would for any trip, make sure you know about any potentially dangerous area along your itinerary before leaving.
  • In some countries, scams against foreigners are quite common, often with taxis or tuk-tuk drivers. Taxis can scam you on the fare, tuk-tuk drivers as well, or they can take you to a different destination than the one you asked for because he will receive a commission there. 
  • When you rent a car or a motorbike, make sure to take photos of the vehicle before leaving, in case they try to make you pay for damage that you did not cause when you return.
  • Never leaves your valuable unattended. They will most probably not be there anymore when you get back. 
  • Don’t go around showing off your expensive bag, jewelry, or other items. Remember snatching can be a problem in some destinations – don’t tempt them.
  • Don’t take drugs in Asia. Depending on the country, the sentence for possession/use of drugs can be extremely harsh, going all the way to the death penalty in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, or Indonesia. 
  • Avoid crowds, and avoid being out at night in secluded areas. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and use common sense and your gut instinct to detect any potentially dangerous situation.